It’s Partytime with the Daring Bakers!

Sunday, March 30, 2008


I’ve often said that I’m always “late to the party”. This month’s Daring Bakers Challenge is no exception. With the Easter Season and tax season and Spring Break, it has been an action-packed month here at chez SGCC. Every time I would set aside a day to bake my cake, one thing or another would come up, requiring my attention, and diverting me from my goal.
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I also tend to be a little passive-aggressive about these challenges. I plan every detail of what I am going to do and how I am going to do it, but then my “inner insecure child” takes over and I get nervous about cracking that first egg. With all of the talented and creative DBers out there, how will I “measure up”? You see, I’m pretty new to this baking thing and still not totally comfortable with it. That’s one of the reasons I joined this wonderful group – to make me reach out of my comfort zone and attempt things in my oven that I never had the guts to try before.
That’s how it came to be that I was pouring cake batter and whipping egg whites at 2:00 this morning! I don’t know why I was so worried. Everything about this challenge came off without a hitch and left me wishing that I really had a party to go to so that I could show off my beautiful, fancy cake!

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Morven of Food, Art and Random Thoughts was our hostess for this month’s challenge. She chose Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake from her “cult status” cookbook, Baking: From My Home to Yours. This recipe whips up into a gorgeous, fluffy white cloud of cake perfection that would make any event more festive. Though we had to stick with the basic recipe, we were given carte blanche to flavor and decorate our cakes however we liked. I happen to really like lemon, raspberry and coconut, so I chose to leave my cake as is. Lucky thing too, since at two in the morning my creative juices were beginning to ebb!
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I had read about the issues that a lot of the other DBers had with the cake not rising properly. To counteract that, I doubled the cake recipe and baked it in three 9-inch cake pans. Since each pan held a little extra batter, my layers baked up higher and were perfect for cutting the layers for this cake. I froze the leftover cake to use another time. (I think I see a trifle in my future!)

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After the Yule Log Challenge, I was a little apprehensive about making a Swiss butter cream again. I even thought about cheating and making a cream cheese frosting. Who would know, right? But in the end, ethics and fair play won out and I sucked it up and did it. I doubled the recipe for this too, because God forbid I should run out of buttercream! I really do love that buttercream!
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The only thing I changed about the filling in my cake was to also add some lemon curd in between the layers. I really wanted a little tartness to offset the sweetness of the raspberry jam. It was a good call. I loved the way the three fillings worked together. As a matter of fact, I just loved this cake, period. It was moist and light, and the fillings were the perfect creamy balance of sweet and tart. I would definitely make this one again. It truly is the “perfect party cake”. The only problem is, who am I going to get to make this for me when my birthday comes around in May!?!?

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Many thanks to Morven for hosting this round, as well as to Ivonne and Lis for creating this terrific group that is the Daring Bakers! Please take some time to check out all of the other Perfect Party Cakes on the Daring Bakers Blogroll. You’ll be glad you did!


Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan
For the Cake
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated fresh lemon zest (I used Meyer lemons)
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract
For the Buttercream
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
1 cup lemon curd
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut
Getting Ready
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
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Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
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Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.

Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.

Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

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To Make the Buttercream
Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream. Remove the bowl from the heat.

Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes. During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.

On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla. You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.
To Assemble the Cake
Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half.
Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. Spread it with one third of the preserves. Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.
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Spread one third of the lemon curd on another layer and lay it on top of the first layer of cake, curd side down. Spread with preserves, buttercream and lemon curd and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).
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Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top. Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.
Serving
The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but I think it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.

Enjoy!

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Hello and welcome to SGCC! I’m Susan, a professional writer, food columnist, recipe developer, wife, mother, daughter and sister, who used to be a lawyer in a previous life. My love of food comes from a long line of wonderful and creative Italian home cooks who didn’t always have a lot, but knew how to make a lot out of what they had. I hope that you enjoy yourself while you’re here, and visit often! read more >>

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